Meditation and mindfulness are increasingly spoken about as useful tools for living. But practice of meditation is a totally different thing from understanding meditation intellectually. While theory, research and debate may be enjoyable, it is practice that marks out a path to profound change.
The beauty of meditation is its simplicity. All you need is a chair. Perhaps your thighs are supple then you don’t even need a chair and can meditate cross-legged on the floor.
The important thing is to be alert, with a straight back. Meditation is not passive because the meditator is alert to what is. The breath, the body, existence…
Add in a mantra – a word in a language that is not your mother tongue, so it has no prior associations, repeat it inwardly – and you are set.
The simplicity of the practice is vital. It means the meditator can return to the mantra and re-focus on their breathing – centre themselves – whenever they notice they have strayed.
Meditation is not a sport, it is not something to be ‘good’ at. It is sitting and calming the mind. Once calm, the mind is less stuck in its usual routine and is freer. Profound realisations can come. Sometimes they don’t. Often, pleasurable thoughts and memories come, one’s innocence rises.
There is no point in predicting an outcome to the regular practice of meditation, but it is safe to say a light-heartedness emerges.
In a world in which we look to experts to run the complicated affairs of state, business, politics and economics, it can be easy to conclude that we have no control. We can fill this space with attachments to the things we feel we can control: work, perhaps; relationships; children; pleasure.
But this can create attachments to which we have to cling. And, somehow, we know that this clinging quality is not quite right for us, that life is not supposed to be lived in such a clench-fisted manner.
This is where the chair can be useful. Meditation practice can bring balance. So, when we see the aggressive attitude of another person, we know that they are suffering. They cease to be a threat to us. When a new government is formed, we know they are just people making mistakes. We are all just people sharing a space.
While it may be inescapable that we have to go to school or work and compete with others, meditation allows us to experience our true nature, tapping in to the stillness, the deep ocean under the turbulence of the waves.
It is then possible to refresh our normal lives and our daily activities with this, as we know it is always available.
We don’t need to chase this peace, and it is not something benevolently offered from above. It’s ours and it’s free.
Tom for UDL